There are many states across the nation that have State Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs that are approved by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). But under the existing framework, state-inspected products can only be sold interstate if approved to do so under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping Program (CIS).
So this week a bill was introduced in the U.S. House to create new opportunities for cattle producers and processors to market beef products. The “Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2021” would allow retail quantities of meat processed under state-inspection to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, providing beef producers and local processors alike with more options to market direct-to-consumers.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) hailed the introduction of this bipartisan legislation. In a release, NCBA Policy Division Chair and South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an urgent need for our industry to expand opportunities for state-inspected meatpackers. NCBA acted quickly last year, advocating to allow more beef to be safely sold online across state lines. The DIRECT Act will allow cattle producers and smaller beef processors to more easily evolve to meet the growing demand for e-commerce sales.”
NCBA notes the DIRECT Act would amend the retail exemption under the FMIA and PPIA to allow processors, butchers, or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of MPI State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines. Because transactions authorized under the DIRECT Act sales are direct to consumer via e-commerce, sales are traceable and can easily be recalled. The proposal also includes clear prohibitions on export, keeping our equivalency agreements with trading partners intact. The DIRECT Act will allow states operating under the CIS system to ship and label as they are currently.